The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

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The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

Postby wpqx » Sun Nov 06, 2005 7:57 pm

Well it took long enough, but the film finally came out. Showing for one week only at the Gene Siskel Film Center in the heart of the theater district. I realized catching this film was not only of the utmost importance, but also going to be a rather difficult task to accomplish, because who would actually want to sit through a three hour Greek film, besides me and a few select members of this board?

Well pardon the narration, but someone who desperately wanted sushi was the answer. Begrudgingly I agreed to do the raw fish in exchange for a movie date, and everything was set. We parked at the quickest place we could find (for the low, low price of $13), and proceeded on our evening. Well about an hour into the movie, my gf who will remain nameless had about enough and took a rather long restroom break (about an hour to be exact). I was enthralled however, and sat it out. After the film, she confessed to thinking it was the worst film she had ever seen, and couldn't believe me that I could have enjoyed it. Well different tastes I suppose.

Seeing how parking is usually evil downtown, and the restaurant was a mile away, walking seemed like the thing to do. It had stopped raining and the weather was particularly pleasant for a November evening. So walked we did, and made it to the restaurant with a few minutes to spare before our reservation. I found the restaurant to be not very sushi like. It was very dimly lit, and playing loud hip hop music, more to the making's of a club than a sushi bar, but whatever time to eat. Due to my inability to read the menu right, I wound up ordering some King Crab that was supposed to be cooked. It was served cold, and let me tell you, it wouldn't have filled up an annorexic supermodel. The three pieces of fish were about the size of a finger, and if my girl had spit in my mouth, it probably would have been more filling.

Well as she's wrapping up her meal (which I had to help with because I was @#%$ starving), we see a flash or four of lightning. As we have the long wait for our check we see the rain start falling. Our long walk back to the car might involve a taxi after all. Luckily I had managed to find an umbrella, so at least she was dry. After much frustration we eventually found a cab, and believe all the stereotypes you want about them not speaking English. Seeing how Randolph St. (the road we parked on and the same place as the Sushishimi) was a one way street, we had to find another way around. We drove for far too long in a big circle and went about a whopping 1/2 mile, before I just stopped the cab and hopped out. The ride only cost $8, so yeah let's move on.

We arrive at the parking garage only to find the worst fear of any man, woman, or child. It's @#%$ LOCKED. Gates closed, with a chain locked, no one on attendance. Our car is locked in a parking garage, and we live over an hour away. Not only was our car locked in there, but had we been 15 minutes earlier, we would have made it, just that damn close, and I'll tell you those were the most expensive 15 minutes of my life.

We called the emergency number on the garage, but apparently they have the same hours. Then we tried the police, because after all I do remember something about them helping people? Well on a dying cell phone we talked to numerous people, none of which seemed to have a solution. We gained some allies as another group of people also needed to get to their car. They left, and shortly after two police officer's showed up. Unable to help they suggested we just get a hotel room, an idea that my girl was not too happy about. I figured the last chance I had was to call home, and ask my dear old mother for some help. Unlike the previous (Call me in case of an emergency) I got a nice recommendation to just bite the bullet and get the hotel room. Well let's speed things up, and walk another 1/2 mile in the pouring rain to a hotel.

We found that the hotel was only $200, yay for us. The person at the counter felt sorry for us, so we got it reduced to $160, but with city tax, it still costs a fortune. Plus I must remind you that I'm being sarcastic, $200 for a bed overnight, is @#%$ bullshit, and you should all know that. Well soaked we just went to bed, realizing that before too long we would laugh at this.

Now pardon that rather long narrative, but let's talk about the movie.

Angelopoulus has been carefully working this out, the first part of a planned trilogy spanning from 1919 to the present day. The Weeping Meadow covers that beginning period up until the Greek Civil War, which followed WWII. The film has an immediate familiarity for someone who's seen some of his early work. The style is the same right from the first shot. A slow tilting shot of a group of Greek citizen's exiled from Odessa following the Bolshevik Revolution. They are claiming their new land just as the Children of Israel did following Exodus. In the front is a husband and wife, with two kids. We are told by the narrator that the little girl isn't their's, but was found lying next to her dead mother in Odessa. She reaches for the slightly older boy's hand, and in characteristic Angelopuolus fashion we are whisked away to the future.

Eleni (Alexandra Aidini) now a young teen is returning on the same river. She was "sick" and is now back home. We find rather subtlely that she was pregnant by Alexis (Nikos Poursanidis), the young boy in the beginning, and their twins were put up for adoption. More fast forwarding takes place, and the boy's father, Spyros (Vassilis Kolovos) is now planning on marrying Eleni. The two run away on her wedding day off to find a better life, and their children.

We only occasionally get glimpses of what time it is. Eleni stays the same age pretty much the whole film through, but we see her children are young boys, so obviously about 5 or 6 years have passed since their adoption. They take refuge in a theater, where it is discovered that Alexis is a talented accordion player. He joins a band, and one that eventually gets him to America, only to leave behind his family, which he hopes and believes is only temporary.

Of course things are a little depressing from the start, but with a title like The Weeping Meadow, of course there is going to be much sadness. I'd rather like to avoid saying what happens to Eleni, Alexis, and their two sons, but it's not really surprising. Everyone suffers, and it is at your discretion who hurts the most.

After Alexis goes to America, Eleni becomes the film. We see everything through her, and it is her experience we feel and relate to. The whole film is told with long hypnotic and slow takes. The type that can put many people to sleep, but also have a wonderfully subtle beauty. Like other Angelopoulus films it is full of shots that have no real point. There is a field of white sheets hung to dry on clothes lines. The camera takes it's time observing them, and we see and hear the musicians playing a tune as they wander through the white maze. It does nothing for the plot, but it is possibly the most memorable moment from the film, just as the raising of the statue hand was in Landscape in the Mist.

For fans of Theo, this film will not possibly disappoint. It is a remarkable achievement, and when the trilogy gets finished, it can easily be his greatest achievement. Be warned though, this can be long and incredibly boring for people that aren't fans of his. I just hope we can see part two, and that this film gets some DVD distribution.

Grade A

Re: The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

Postby A » Sun Nov 06, 2005 8:44 pm

Here's a fan thankful for the review.
Sorry to hear how much it cost you, though.
I have only seen three and three-fourths of his films, - the fourth being "The suspended Step of The Stork" which I was in the final 30minutes of watching, and it was tremendous, a great scene was just building up, and then the croatian network station that showed it went off-air... -(and Missing The Traveling Players the 2nd time last month at cinema ), but his "Ulysse's Gaze" still Tops My Personal Top Ten for four years already.
So I hope this @#%$ rumored Box-Set of his finally comes out, because I can't get hold of many of his films exactly

Re: The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

Postby trevor826 » Sun Nov 06, 2005 10:55 pm

I've just got the Artificial Eye dvd and am waiting for the time to be able to watch it. The only other film I've seen is a worn video of "Ulysse's Gaze" but I found that fascinating enough to get this.

Cheers Trev.

Re: The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

Postby A » Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:18 pm

Have seen it two days ago on the Artificial eye-DVD.

What I liked most was the colors of the film, everything seemed to be shot in contrasting black and white, but with colors, in between a palette of greyish and most notably brownish tones. It was beautiful to look at, like the sky is looking before the storm begins. The set design was also very convincing and seemed to transport the viewer in the depicted time. The story is about Eleni, an adopted greek girl, and all the social political and personal turmoil that surrounds her. It begins with fugitives deprived of their homes and ends in total dispair. The camerawork wasn't as great as in "Ulysse's Gaze" or "The Beekeeper", creating few memorable transcendental shots, which also seemed lacking compared to Theo's other films.
For me it was his most easily accessible and straightforward film, with an easy to follow plotline. Played like an ancient greek tragedy, like Angelopoulos himself said in an interview "according to the principles of Arestoteles" as opposed to Brecht in his earlier films. But this also becomes a kind of problem, as the film clearly has way too much dialogue, at times simply repeating verbally what has already been shown, and thus diminishing the impact of certain scenes. I think that Angelopoulos made the film on purpose more "mainstream" as to get access to a larger public with this trilogy that will tell the story of the 20th century when finished. But to me that is one of its weaknesses. Adding unnecessary explanations or simplifications weakens its artistic integrity as a whole. Also the voice-over is used to a disadvantage imo as it doesn't add anything at all in itself, comparing unfavorably with the essential and integral voice-over of for example Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon". This comparison seems appropriate to me, as I think Kubrick's film was "technically" a heavy influence, maybe even some sort of blueprint for "The weeping Meadow". Most naticably the camera is constantly moving, panning most of the time in and out of a frame, the same technique used in "Barry Landon", though it doesn't achieve its impact, because it doesn't have the contrast of the distance of Kubrick's Brechtian mise-en-scene (and the restrained acting) on one hand and the gentleness and tenderness of the camera-movements that bring us close to the characters on the other hand, while the camera nevertheless keeps us distant enough to reflect upon the film. In "The Weeping Meadow" the similar camerawork becomes more the distancing and reflective part which impact nevertheless is too little when placed alongside the very emotional acting. Thus the film becomes a more "emotional" experience, meaning that it tries to lure you at times instead of trusting the viewer to develop his own emotions (e.g. Very contrasting to Robert Bresson). The Music by Eleni Karaindrou is the film, meaning that the main theme creates the same atmosphere and feeling in music that the film does in scenes without it. Thus its an integral part when Angelopuols shows musicians playing, as their music powerfully comments on the ongoing events and their impact on the protagonists' lives.

Overall, though too "mainstream" imo (compared to Angelopoulos own standards) One of my favorite films of the year and one of the best films of 2004.
A must see.

Re: The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

Postby wpqx » Fri Nov 11, 2005 6:34 pm

Believe me this film is not mainstream. Regular film goers will be bored to tears. I think this follows well with Angelopoulus' other films, most notably The Travelling Players. Perhaps the story is easier to follow, but far from the mainstream.

Re: The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

Postby A » Mon Nov 14, 2005 12:32 am

I know it's not mainstream. I'm just talking in comparison to his other films.
But I really think this film wouldn't bore a "regular" audience that is enough open minded. I think it's quite accessible.
This would be the Angelopoulos Film I would show anybody to raise their interest in his work.

Re: The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

Postby gratefultiger » Thu Nov 24, 2005 12:45 am

i am looking forward to catching this film down under asTheo is among my fave modern day directors,"landscape in the mist"
i admire immensely.

Re: The Weeping Meadow (2004) - Theo Angelopoulus

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Apr 13, 2008 4:20 am

The DVD from New Yorker includes a video interview with Angelopoulos, and a booklet featuring another in print, a timeline of modern Greek history, and an essay by the filmmaker himself.

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